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Summary Chapter 31

An old man is commonly seen walking across the metropolis. His clothes are unfashionable and were not made for him. During holidays, he seems more disabled and teary-eyed. He is usually drunk and easily made so. He lives in a workhouse.

He is Mrs. Plornish’s father, a man who failed at his business and went to live at the workhouse. Mrs. Plornish is still proud of his talents. She loves to hear him sing.

The Father of the Marshalsea often receives him. He feels sorry for him being at the workhouse.

On his birthday, Mrs. Plornish’s father—Mr. Nandy—dines with his family. Little Dorrit pays a visit. Mrs. Plornish’s husband offers to let his father-in-law live with them, but Mr. Nandy refuses. Mr. Plornish is not well off financially to support another addition to his family.

Little Dorrit and Mr. Nandy are walking across the Iron Bridge when they come across Fanny, who is outraged that Amy is walking with a pauper. She accuses Little Dorrit of disgracing the family. Little Dorrit and Mr. Nandy continue on to the Marshalsea.

When Amy’s father sees them, he turns away and goes to his room without welcoming them. Little Dorrit follows him up. She finds Fanny there. Her father is upset with Little Dorrit for walking with a pauper in public. Amy claims she never wanted to humiliate her family. The Father of the Marshalsea had always been kind to Mr. Nandy, and so it didn’t occur to her that it would be shameful to walk with him. Her father understands and promises to forget it.

Young John comes up with a letter from Arthur Clennam, who wishes to visit Amy and her father that afternoon.

The father invites Mr. Nandy up for a visit. Little Dorrit wishes to go to her room and not see anyone for the rest of the day. Her father insists that she visit with Mr. Clennam when he comes.

When Arthur comes, the Father of the Marshalsea introduces him to Mr. Nandy and Fanny. Mr. Nandy is served tea at the windowsill rather than being invited to the table. Mr. Dorrit acts like he is an animal on display. He likes to talk about how infirmed and feeble Mr. Nandy is. He gives him tobacco when he leaves.

Tip enters and doesn’t greet Arthur politely. He is angry that Arthur didn’t lend him money. He doesn’t think Arthur treats him like a gentleman.

Mr. Dorrit is angry at Tip. He is insulted because he thinks Tip is implying that since Arthur gave him money, it means he is not a gentleman. Tip tries to explain that his situation doesn’t apply to his father’s. When he can’t reason with his father, Tip leaves. Fanny goes with him, shooting an accusatory glance at Mr. Clennam.

Charles Dickens